The world recently got a visceral glimpse into the life and work of Alexandrian skateboarder/artist, Ziad Ashraf, in ‘Portrait of a Skateboarding Artist’, a video portrait made by Muhammed Ibrahim. We contacted the Egyptian shredder to hear about skateboarding in Alexandria, as well as meet his filmer buddy for insight into what sparked his motivation to capture his friend…
photography & video stills courtesy of Muhammed Ibrahim
What opportunities led you to skateboarding in Egypt?
Ziad – I was 13 when I first saw skateboarding on TV, and I decided that’s what I wanna do. I was really impressed by how ‘cool’ it was. Started out with a wal-mart type board until I found out there was a skate shop called Skate Impact. I went on their forum and connected with other skaters, bought a real board and started working on my ollies and shuv-its.
Muhammed – I was hanging out with a friend at the mall then I saw some guys doing some rad tricks with a skateboard. And once I got back home I googled about skateboarding in Egypt and met these guys then the next day I went to Skate Impact to buy my first board.
On the contrary, what conditions may prevent you from skateboarding in Egypt?
Z I dont know, lack of skateparks and spots I guess but we make the best of what we have.
M Lately, the government destroyed a two of our favorite spots under the name of maintenance and they are making it worse I guess. If the government made a law that prevented skateboarding in public places, I would probably keep skating. But what’s really bothering me is how we don’t have many spots here. We would love to have a huge skatepark someday.
Ziad, can you tell us about some of your influences in skateboarding and art?
In skateboarding I’m influenced by fast skaters with sketchy style. I don’t like perfect bolt landing and tech skating. My favorite skater is John Cardiel. In art, Robert Crumb is a huge influence on my style and maybe Ed Tempelton, you know the whole Toy Machine attitude is amazing.
Ziad, If you were the instructor of your own art class, what would be your first assignment for your pupils?
To draw whatever they want I would never force an artist to draw anything other than what he/she wants, art is all about freedom. They’re doing it wrong in schools.
Muhammed, how did you get into film making? Can you tell us about your inspiration for and process behind making Ziad’s video?
Once I got into skateboarding and landed a couple of tricks, I wanted to get a camera to film myself maybe to enter some online competitions. I remember since getting a small camcorder and seeing plenty of online stuff, my passion has increased. I got a DSLR then and did some work with it and then here I am doing what I love for a living, thanks to skateboarding of course. I had this idea about making a feature long documentary about what all the underground artists face in Egypt but I didn’t have enough budget to continue. So instead I decided to make a series of short documentaries about some of the underground artists here. I started out with a portrait of a skateboarding artist, about Skate Impact’s Ziad Ashraf.
Muhammed, what are some of your goals with film making and what projects are you working on next?
My goal is to keep doing what I love for the rest of life and that including filmmaking, going to new places, meeting new people and getting experiences and stuff. My plans begin as soon as I finish high school by the end of June. I will continue my series of short documentaries and doing some other projects.
What do you like and, perhaps, dislike about skating in Alexandria?
Z It’s got the perfect weather for skating. And it’s a small city, you can cruise easily from one spot to another on your board. You don’t have to get stuck in traffic, but it rains often in the winter.
M For me, Alexandria is the best city in Egypt. We have the sea, cleaner air and wonderful sunsets. But unfortunately, we don’t have many spots as I mentioned before and especially spots where we can skate at night.
Who is supporting you guys to do what you love to do?
Z Skate Impact has always been there for the scene in Egypt since 2005. Without them I would’ve never been still skating to this day.
M Family, some friends and the cool guys running Skate Impact.
Muhammed, Ziad, What do you think will help keep you both on your creative paths?
Z Boredom I guess, I get most creative when I’m bored in class.
M I don’t really know but I guess new opportunities and enough budget to keep up with my expenses and personal projects.
If you had never found skateboarding or vise versa, what do you suppose you would be doing in life?
Z I would’ve probably been drunk at parties 24/7.
M I would be working very hard on my degree to become a boring engineer or a doctor.
If you could travel anywhere in the Middle East, where would you go, and why?
M Well, I guess UAE and Lebanon. Because they both have some cool places to visit. And I love Egypt of course. There are a plenty of places I didn’t visit here.
Z Lebanon, pretty women…
Muhammed’s video of Ziad:
For more of Ziad and Muhammed check out: